App Risk: A WAFF 48 special report

Updated: Nov. 21, 2018 at 4:33 AM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Here's a question for you, when was the last time you checked your child's cellphone?

If you’re planning on getting your child their first cell phone this Christmas” and taking out the summer stuff.

Two mothers sat down with WAFF to share their real and scary situations involving their children.

For this mother, it started with a change in her 13-year-old daughter's attitude, and she asked "are you depressed, is some kid bothering you, something in my gut told me to check her phone." When she did, she discovered nude photos and videos of her daughter and the men she was talking to.

The mother tried taking her daughter's phone but she would just end up stealing her sibling's phones.

However, the loudest wake-up call came from an unexpected knock at the door while mom was away from home but grandpa was there. "He said there was a gentleman, older gentleman that showed up and asked if there was kids that lived here."

He was searching for her daughter, right in Morgan County. Grandpa told him to get lost after he tried to come up with a lie for why he was there.

Another Tennessee Valley mother broke down her story involving her 10 year old step-son. "Middle of the night, he comes running in there and he says there is a man taking to him on his phone. I say hello and this man proceeds to talk to me sexually."

The man on the other end thought he was calling an escort he saw on Craigslist, with the same number.

Here's what both moms have in common, their children used the app TEXT NOW, a free app, no cell plan required. You download this app and it gives you a local phone number and you can call or text anyone as long as you have Wi-Fi service.

TEXT NOW is just one app, there are millions out there.

Here are 10 more that are popular with teens right now that you should be looking for like OMEGLE, basically a chat room to talk to anyone anonymously or WHISPER that promotes meeting new people and sharing secrets.

It all goes back to dangerous apps.

Morgan County attorney Patrick Caver, hosts an entire class on them to educate local parents.

“As parents, we’ve let you down. We’ve given you a loaded gun and didn’t tell you how to use it,” said Caver.

Safety restrictions, what to look for, and the legal side of things, he covers it all but he says protecting your child comes down to one thing.

"Be the parent, that's the best answer you have. Be the parent, it's your cellphone, take your child's cellphone, look at it. educate yourself on it," added Caver.

Blount County District Attorney Pamela Casey is also making parents more app savvy.

When she's not prosecuting criminals who target children, she's speaking to parents across the state and through her FB page.

Her new challenge for parents: #CYCP. Check your child's phone.

“If I’m a pedophile or a predator, I can sit at home, the comfort of my own home and talk to as many children as I want to and nobody is monitoring that,” said District Attorney Pamela Casey.

[VIDEO: How to better monitor your child’s devices]

She’s even seen them using games as a way in, “Predators go on and engage in sexual acts in fantasy worlds with these children using their icon or their emoji person,” explained Casey.

Both mothers we spoke with now have a new game plan. “I’ll check it twice one week, I may go a week without checking, just to where they are not on my track and they can’t delete before I get my hands on it. Sometimes they don’t even when I’m checking, I’ll check it when they’re asleep. Just stay on top of it, constantly, even if they get mad at you. Constantly, check messages and pull up every single app and go through it because if not, another will slide right through.”

Here's another scary part, if your child is caught sending nude photos, even of themselves - that's considered producing and disseminating child pornography, meaning they could be labeled a sex offender for the rest of their life.

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